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Apostles’ fingers Two recipes for absolutely mouthwatering pastries! by Dario Ersetti
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Apostle's fingers, delicious traditional recipe of which the main ingredients are eggs, cane sugar, ricotta and dark chocolate. Photo by Dario Ersetti

This is a pastry, or to be exact two pastries, found all over Puglia. Their names are the same and, strangely enough, their main ingredient is egg white in one case and egg yolk in the other.

Their origin is obscure, but in view of their elegance and their use of sugar, it seems likely that they did not originate among the popular classes but, considering their name, that they came from convents.

To explain the egg white “apostles’ fingers” it could be supposed that the nuns who made almond paste lambs filled with faldacchiera had huge quantities of unused egg whites left over (the faldacchiera is a sort of zabaglione of egg yolk and sugar). 

 

The recipes

 

   Ingredients:

 

- 3 egg whites

- grated zest of 1 lemon

- 200 g of ricotta

- 50 g of unrefined cane sugar

- 50 g of dark chocolate

- 20 g of butter

- 1 spoonful of icing sugar

- 1 small glass of sweet liqueur

- a little ground cinnamon

- salt

 

Mix the well-drained ricotta with the sugar, grated chocolate and liqueur (such as Strega or San Marzano or cane juice rum) and let it stand in the fridge for a while.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the lemon zest until fluffy (not stiff). Put a buttered pan on the fire and when hot place a spoonful of the egg white into the pan to create a very thin pancake. Turn and continue cooking. The cooking time is very short because the pancake must stay pale, to remind us of the apostles’ fingers, which are conventionally white. The skill, and the difficulty, lies in making them very thin and not golden; like this they will not interfere with the taste and consistence of the filling but will provide a touch of elegance.

When the pancakes are ready and cool, place a little filling in the center and roll up to form cannoli. To serve, sprinkle with icing sugar and a little ground cinnamon. In a 10-centimeter pan, three egg whites will produce 8 pancakes. 

 

The other recipe seems to have originated in 1793 in Galatina near Lecce, where cooking pastries has a long tradition, and in this case, too, the egg whites are almost certainly left over from something else, for instance meringues. These “apostles’ fingers” are also known as “Africans”.

 

 

   Ingredients:

 

- 3 egg yolk

- 100 g of cane sugar

 

Using a whisk (or electric beaters), thoroughly beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture swells and is almost white.

Place the mixture in patty papers leaving space for them to spread and cook in the oven in the same way as meringues. This needs practice. Turn off the oven and leave them in the heat for about half an hour. The “apostles’ fingers” will dry out without burning.

The ideal way to eat this “dry zabaglione” is to dip it into a cup of good hot chocolate. Ladies also used to have a more “wicked” use for it: dipped in marsala or vermouth it was offered to males that were too cold-blooded…

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